Mining the News (10/2/20) by Jeff Zimmerman October 2, 2020 • One item missing from this article are hitters who played through an injury. While it needs to be updated, all the information can be located here. • For Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn, it took about two months for mechanical adjustments to take hold. “In a shorter season, obviously everything gets magnified,” Rangel pointed out. “It’s tougher. In a regular season, we’d have about three or four months more to go, which gives you a little bit more time to kind of settle things down. It’s just hard this year, the way things are.” Case in point: Lance Lynn. In 2019, Lynn was 2-2 with a 6.51 ERA after five starts. By the time his recovery started to look legit, he was about to make his 11th start (Gibson, meanwhile, has 11 starts this season). If the season ended after two months and 12 starts, as it will for Gibson in 2020, Lynn’s line would have been good but not great: 7-4, 4.50 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 22 walks in 74 innings. Instead, Lynn took June through September and finished fifth in Cy Young voting. The findings are just a data point that seems to be in line with other findings. Players need around a month or two to implement a change or get ready for the season. Just keep the idea in mind when a hitter is coming off the IL or missed part of Spring Training. American League Angels • The Angels plan on giving Shohei Ohtani one more chance to be both a pitcher and hitter. Ohtani, 26, said he’s still not sure when he’ll begin his throwing program to get ready for next season, as the Angels plan to have him return to two-way status again next year. He has too much talent and had too much success as a rookie in 2018 for the Angels to give up on him as a pitcher. He won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2018, going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts on the mound, while also batting .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in 104 games. Ohtani, though, is likely to see this as his last chance as a two-way player, as one more injury could force him to become a full-time position player. The Angels already have had him work out in right field and at first base this season to increase his versatility. But Ohtani said his desire to both pitch and hit has not wavered. I can understand why the Angels would want him to do both, but it seems like 2021 will be the last season for the experiment. Athletics • Chris Bassitt improved his production by mixing up his fastballs. “So I just kept saying, ‘I need to start doing that more.’ I was throwing way too many sinkers, being way too predictable. Mixing in more four-seamers, mixing in more cutters, that’s gotten guys off my sinker. As long as I can throw those all for strikes, I think it’s going to be kind of hard to face me.” For opposing hitters, it has not just been “kind of” hard; it’s been very hard to face Bassitt this season. And in large part this is due to changes he’s made in pitch sequencing. Heading into this season, Bassitt began replacing many of his two-seamers with cutters, which has led to the best whiff rate on his two-seamer in his career (6.99 percent, up from 6.45 percent). This gives him three pitches with better-than-average whiff rates (his two-seamer, his curveball and his cutter). On top of that, he’s now throwing his slowest, deepest curveball, which has led to the best whiff rate of his career on that pitch (17.5 percent). The pitch mix change isn’t that drastic. It’s similar to 2018 when he posted a 3.02 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 47 innings of work. Mariners • The Mariners expect Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, and Cal Raleigh to play in the majors next season. The GM also believes next year’s club will be further bolstered by the additions of such top prospects as Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert and Cal Raleigh at some point during the season. Also, they expect Mitch Haniger to be starting come Opening Day. “I know his recovery has really picked up steam this last 30-40 days,” Dipoto said. “He is feeling as good as he’s felt through the course of this process. … He will be teed up and released to play by New Year’s. “Right now, my 100-percent belief is Mitch Haniger will be our right fielder on Opening Day. We’ll build a team intended for that to be the case and then adjust if not.” Orioles • The Orioles hope Trey Mancini will be ready at the start of next season. Reacting to the news of Mancini completing chemotherapy treatment, Elias remained optimistic the slugger can return in full next season. That has been Mancini’s goal since he was diagnosed with colon cancer in mid-March, then missed the entire 2020 as he underwent treatment. “We are hopeful he can help us,” Elias said. “He fits in well with us. He was everything for us last year and to add him back next year gets everyone excited. He went through a lot and he’s going to have to get his strength and baseball activity back, and there is still going to be some process involved with that. Red Sox "a normal offseason"? How's about a normal life after he's "been cleared to start walking again." Fucking hell. pic.twitter.com/N2LR4YEWoc — Tom Pringle (@PedroiasFace) September 25, 2020 Just now walking? He’s a reserve round flier at best for me. Tigers • Matt Boyd pitched through several injuries this season. “Ever since that blowup in Chicago [in mid-August], it’s been consistently getting better and better and understanding my game and getting back to what I do,” Boyd said after his six quality innings Saturday earned him a win against the Royals. “This is another step. Now, there’s going to be a few more days between starts.” Boyd dealt with minor injuries through much of the process, from a tight hamstring sustained in Summer Camp to plantar fasciitis in his left foot over his final few starts. He also dealt with a self-inflicted challenge when he accidentally flattened his fastball while trying to increase its spin rate. I’m not sure how to process this news. He was a mess as seen by the 6.71 ERA, but he’s shown no ability to permanently correct any of his problems. Dart throw. National League Cubs • Adbert Alzolay changed his pitch grip mid-season. After being demoted once again after a September 10 outing, Alzolay went back to work in South Bend. During his short time there, Alzolay worked with the staff and changed the grip on his slider — “more like a cutter grip,” he said. “The velo went up,” Alzolay said. “We put a lot of work on that pitch. I give credit to the pitching coaches down there and the (director of pitching), Craig Breslow. “I was working with them just trying to find the grip that is helping me now to get that separation from the curveball. The curveball is between 79-82 and the slider was getting close to that same velo. The hitters can see that. Just having the separation between those two pitches is huge for me.” It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in the postseason, but I’m interested especially with his 15 K/9, 2.00 ERA, and 0.89 WHIP in his last two starts. • Javier Báez was slow to make adjustments during the season. “The way they’re pitching me this year, it just changed my plans,” Báez said. “Once I trust that again, I think that we’ll be back to normal. Obviously, in a rush this year, in a rush to do those adjustments. It was hard, so I tell myself not to rush it. … “Making adjustments this season, it was like trying to have four ABs in one at-bat,” Báez said. “It was really hard for me. And it’s still hard, but I still got to deal with it. Like I said, it’s the same for a lot of players that are struggling and they’re still competing. They’re still not giving up. It is what it is. When we play 162 games again, it’s going to be a whole different season.” The article contained some additional information on him not having video. He never settled in and was lost at the plate. He’s tough to evaluate going forward. Dodgers • Corey Seager was finally feeling healthy last season. Even in this shortened season, Seager’s consistency sticks out. He has reached base in 43 of the 47 games in which he has batted at least twice. He said his growth stems from improved health and strength, which enables him to repeat his movements day after day. ‘“His body is just aligned,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t know if it’s the hips, obviously the elbow, the back — everything is just kind of moving the right way.” … “Last year especially, I just wasn’t physically as strong as I’d have liked to have been,” he said. “Your body kind of changes. You get tired, things start changing positions on you. Just being strong again and being healthy again has definitely helped that.” I’m not surprised by the improved results. It’s the normal pattern for hitters returning from Tommy John surgery. Mets • Dominic Smith adjusted his swing for an all field approach. The more they talked into spring training, the more Davis emphasized an all-fields approach and a simple philosophy that resonated with Smith: Find the barrel. The power will come as long as you find the barrel. It was a more traditional message than the launch-angle gospel being proselytized by most hitting coaches in the game. But it’s worked for Smith and many of his teammates. The change helped him beat the shift with a .349 BABIP against it this past season but just a .314 BABIP the previous season. Nationals • Max Scherzer felt like his cutter improved. “I feel like I did get better in some ways,” he said. “I really feel like my cutter was better this year. I made some adjustments on that coming into this year, and I really feel like we’ve seen some benefits from that. I was able to execute it this year on a whole pretty well. There were times when my curveball, I felt, was also better as well, and it was sharper as well.” He was wrong. Looking over the pitch’s metrics, it barely changed. The swinging strike-rate was up 1% point and the groundball rate was down 1% point. Pirates • Josh Bell joined the no-in-game-video support group. At least one of his issues was unexpected. Players weren’t allowed to watch in-game video this season. Bell reviewed footage of his at-bats during games with hitting coach Rick Eckstein last year, and Bell admitted the video became a “crutch” for him — a quick, easy way to identify and correct mistakes. This week’s meeting is at J.D. Martinez’s house. Everyone needs to bring a snack. • Gregory Polanco’s swing was out of whack because of COVID. Due to a bout with COVID-19, Polanco’s swing was out of whack when he rejoined the team. “Those two weeks that I was home doing nothing took away a lot from my timing,” he said. A shoulder injury that required surgery in September 2018, followed by nearly a year and a half of inactivity, set him back, too. The real question is, “Has it ever been right?” Reds #Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson said Michael Lorenzen could be a starter next year. "He's put himself in that conversation. Where we need to go depends on who is going to come back, who we're going to get." — Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) September 27, 2020 These “between” pitchers are interesting to me (e.g. Freddy Peralta). They usually provide a decent number of strikeouts and good ratios.